September 8, 2023 • By Dennis Beaver
“Mr. Beaver, I was recently put in charge of sales for our plumbing supply company. While I have a great deal of product knowledge and have been in sales for decades, I am unsure of myself in this new role. Do you know of something out there that would help transform me from a sales guy to someone who can impact our growth, something like a business executives cookbook? Thanks, ‘Rob.’”
I do indeed, and cookbook is the best way to describe one of the best reads of any business book dedicated to sales that I’ve been asked to review.
Out this October … “The Growth Leader: Strategies to Drive the Top and Bottom Lines,” by Scott K. Edinger, reminds me of the Good Housekeeping Cookbook in its accessibility and practical approach to guiding sales executives toward attainable, positive outcomes.
Edinger bridges the gap between the needs of a business leader in the abstract, and the practical requirements of a sales staff out in the field. This is not a theoretical discussion of leadership concepts, instead, it is hands-on “here’s what to do and why,” which is free from much of the mumbo jumbo often found in “leadership” books.
I had a chance to sit down with Scott and look at what will negatively impact Rob’s plans to increase growth and profitability of his company.
What a Leader in Rob’s Situation Must Avoid
(1) Resist the urge to just push your sales team out to sell more.
Why? Merely increasing sales volume sacrifices the quality of the interaction between the sales team and your customers.
In a consultative or solution oriented business, more activity doesn’t always mean more sales or better results, as it does little to develop long-term relationships with your customer.
That cannot be over emphasized; your sales team is the voice of your board to the people who keep the lights on – your customers!
So, view and treat your sales team as an integral part of the organization, not just order-takers. While more sales activity can drive more transactional business, that is less valuable in the long-run.
(2) Don’t use compensation as the substitute for leadership.
Executives are fond of saying, “I’ve just got to make sure I compensate them right, and then they’ll do everything I need them to.”
However, compensation doesn’t make people better. As an executive, you need better selling interactions that help customers to see things differently, by helping them with expertise and insight your sales team can bring to the table.
You want customers who consider your people as problem solvers. Just rewarding sales alone does not encourage your employees to see themselves in that role.
Anybody who has sold something that has uniqueness or customization knows that experience of being with a customer and hearing, “Oh, wow, we can do that? You’ve got something that’ll do this? Interesting! I hadn’t thought about that. I came to you asking for an X you’re coming to me with X, Y and Z and it’s so much better because of what I need!”
As problem solvers, your people are able to propose products and services that may cost a little more, but which address the customer’s real needs. So, it becomes building a problem-solving relationship with a customer that will often lead to the sale of so much more.
(3) When recruiting, don’t hire Mr. /Ms. Popularity and be seduced by charisma, or personality. Believe that only men are great salespeople. Fail to show appreciation!
At one time, having a sales personality was about being friendly, gregarious and entertaining. Today, strategic problem-solvers are far more important to a sales organization than a person who is personable on the golf course.
Business people don’t rely on friendship or collegiality that much since the pandemic.
Instead, it’s about how they create value. Sales has become a strategic role. So, don’t hire based on personality or popularity. Instead, hire based on depth, on people who are well-educated, articulate, and above all else, are curious, interested in your product or service, and love dialog, discussion, and helping.
Importantly, we need to get away from the vision that selling is very male. In fact, of the top performers on my own teams, more than half were women. And why?
It’s empathy and understanding. Women tend to score higher for aptitude in this arena. It is what allows a seller to make a connection and able to understand the buyer’s needs and provide a better solution.
Edinger concluded our interview with a message for all people in a leadership role:
“Show appreciation and validate the great things all of your people do for the company, especially sales teams. They truly are the ones who keep the lights on.”
“The Growth Leader: Strategies to Drive the Top and Bottom Lines” is as enjoyable a read as was my chat with the author. It is the best business-sales cookbook you’ll ever find.